The Cape Cobras are banking on talented rookies to fire in the Momentum One-Day Cup
CAPE TOWN - Sometimes hitting rock bottom allows for the script to be torn up and a new positive culture to be developed.
This clearly what the Six Gun Grill Cape Cobras, who have not won a game all season in the 4-Day Domestic Series, are hoping for as they spread their net far and wide in the hope of discovering some unpolished gems ahead of their Group B Momentum One-Day Cup opener against the Highveld Lions in Potchefstroom on Friday.
There are fresh new faces in the form of Jean du Plessis, a hard-hitting wicket-keeper batsman from South Western Districts, and two spinners from Boland in Benjamin Ward and Siyabonga Mahima. They will form part of a youthful group that also includes former Bishops prodigy Jonathan Bird, who showed plenty of promise in his debut season last year.
Ward's inclusion, in particular, is genuinely exciting as the 22-year-old leg-spinner has already represented Jersey in the ICC T20 World Cup
qualifiers in 2019, where he played a prominent role with both bat and ball. Ward cracked four sixes and two fours on his way to 47 off just 24 balls before delivering the miserly figures of 1/14 from four overs in a surprise victory over hosts United Arab Emirates.
Ward also has fond memories of Senwes Park, where the One-Day Cup is being staged in a bio-bubble, due to his excellent performances for Stellenbosch University in last year's Varsity Cup week. Prince is hoping the young leg-spinner can exploit the conditions once again.
"Benjamin (Ward) was born in Jersey and represents them at ICC Associate Level but is a South African passport holder," Prince said.
"He had some excellent performances for Maties in the Varsity Cup, which was played at the same ground, Senwes Park, in a similar type of tournament where the fixtures are congested. The square gets a lot of traffic on it, so spin comes more and more into play."
The Cobras are certainly wellstocked up in the spin department despite star all-rounder George Linde being away on national duty with the Proteas in Pakistan.
Off-season recruit Imraan Manack joins Ward and Mahima in the squad, which allows Prince a further option of unorthodox off-spin.
Former SA Under-19 prodigy Du
Plessis will also be eager to show off his potential at franchise level after impressing for South Western Districts on the semi-pro circuit the past couple of seasons. The 22-year-old B-Com graduate from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in George has cracked 2 118 runs across all three formats with averages of 35.18 (first class), 37.15 (list A), and 31.77 (T20) thus far.
However, he really caught Prince's eye with a striking century in one of the warm-up matches at Newlands last week. “We had a couple of warm-up matches in which all these young players really impressed. It just shows how much talent there is out there, but of course opportunities are limited in a six-team top-tier structure. I for one am personally massively in favour of the re-structure, as it provides a lot more opportunities," Prince said.
“I'm really excited about the squad that we have selected. It has a fresh youthful exuberance feel to it. It has some exciting, lesser-known players who are chomping at the bit to make a name for themselves in South African domestic cricket."
It's not only the rookies, though, that will be keen to reignite their careers, but also a couple of stalwarts returning to action from injury and absence. All-rounder Jason Smith is back to full fitness after missing the first part of the season, while former Proteas One-Day International batsman Christiaan Jonker could be seen in Cobras blue for the first time after moving from the Warriors.
Cape Cobras squad
Zubayr Hamza (captain), Aviwe Mgijima, Benjamin Ward, Christiaan Jonker, Corbin Bosch, Imraan Manack, Janneman Malan, Jason Smith, Jean Du Plessis, Jonathan Bird, Nandre Burger, Onke Nyaku, Pieter Malan, Siyabonga Mahima, Tony De Zorzi, Ziyaad Abrahams.
Highveld Lions squad
Aaron Phangiso (capt), Bjorn Fortuin, Delano Potgiter, Dominic Hendricks, Eldred Hawken, Johannes Diseko, Kagiso Rapulana, Malusi Siboto, Mitchel van Buuren, Nicholas van den Bergh, Reeza Hendricks, Ryan Rickelton, Sisanda Magala, Tladi Bokako, Wesley Marshall, Nono Pongolo.